How to communicate with engineers

Perkins_EnginesWe know there is a shift towards online and content marketing. But if your audience are skeptical engineers, how do you most effectively attract, engage and convert them into customers?

As a communications consultant I need to understand what content engineers trust, and where and how they look for it online. But there’s far less insight on this subject to help communicators target such highly technical audiences, than exists for say, consumer and broad business-to-business markets.

However, I came across a recent survey which may help. It involved the questioning of 580 engineers of various industries in North America, such as design services, industrial and manufacturing, automation and control, and aerospace and defence.

I’ve highlighted three sets of findings from the survey by Engineering.com and Trew Marketing, which are useful for targeting communications activities towards engineers, and added a few thoughts of my own :

Engineers prefer real-world examples

In viewing educational webinars or webcasts, engineers prefer real-world examples (93%), followed by images and diagrams (88%). Interestingly, preferences for trends and research data ranked fifth (76%).

On the first point, my experience is that engineers also appreciate use of real-world examples, images and diagrams in combination with each other. By that I mean there’s a preference for consuming real-world examples in still images and video, as opposed to using abstract imagery. If the business is about designing and building new ports, for example, then visually focus on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what is involved in building a port.

Does the second point seem counter-intuitive to you? Contrary to what you might think, use of images and diagrams for a technical engineering audience trumps using pages and pages of text. The idea that engineers don’t appreciate good use of visuals is nonsense. And this is the case, not just in educational webinars and webcasts, but in many other forms of on- and offline communications too.

Engineers trust in experts

Engineers have the highest trust in content written by an engineering expert at a vendor company (scoring 4.51 out of 6). This ranks higher than content written by industry analysts (4.32 out of 6) and editorial pieces in industry print or online publications (3.90 out of 6).

In an industry that so highly values expertise, it is perhaps not surprising that engineers have the most trust in content written by experts. So where does this leave the role of communications specialists – are we needed?

The challenge here is for communicators to facilitate content opportunities for experts to speak straight to the audience. By that I mean speaking at conferences, seminars, workshops, web casts, webinars and interviews, in addition to written forms of direct communication. Communicators then have a challenge to find ways to reuse and share that content on- and offline to provide extra leverage. All of this must be in addition to the traditional approach of finding opportunities to include experts in editorial pieces for trade press.

At the other end of the spectrum, and by contrast, engineers give the worse rating to ‘anonymous sources at a vendor company’ (2.16 out of 6). If no name is attributed to a set of quotes, there is no identified person that readers can trust in, let alone believe in as an authority or expert.

Almost all engineers value ‘online’ as an information source

Nearly all engineers (93%) indicate online resources such as websites, search engines and video as valuable sources of information on the latest engineering technologies, trends and products. This beats technical conferences, print publications (both 75%) and trade shows (58%).

Perkins EnginesClearly, you cannot have an effective communications strategy without building in a strong digital component. But what kind of content appeals to the analytical mind of an engineer?

Well, part of the answer may lie in how useful the content is, in terms of what you can actually do with it. It should help engineers make decisions, and promote a sense of confidence and trust in the content authors.

Take for example, the successful use of an animation by Perkins Engines Company Limited, one of the world’s leading providers of diesel and gas engines. Their short animation helps engine owners identify the most common causes of, and remedies for, blue smoke in the exhaust stream. At the same time as being useful, the animation effectively highlights the depth of knowledge and expertise that resides within the global Perkins parts and distributor network.

To see the Perkins Engines animation click here. For the full survey by Engineering.com and Trew Marketing click here.

Picture courtesy of Perkins Engines Company Limited.

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